“No one is PERFECT….that’s why pencils have erasers” – Author Unknown
Perfectionism is basically what I describe as a belief or the need for an individual to be perfect! It is that kind of belief that makes individuals believe that making mistakes is unacceptable and that everything they do must be done error-free. As you will agree with me, overcoming perfectionism is a necessity as nobody is perfect; such belief will rub you of so many good things in life. If you are a perfectionist and you have been trying so hard to get rid of your need to be perfect all the time…stay with me on this journey!
Generally, perfectionists are always striving to be the best at everything they do, regardless of whether they have full control of the situation or not….a perfectionist will still go ahead and strive for PERFECTION! Don’t get me wrong, striving to be the best is not essentially a damaging thing because quite a number of perfectionists are known to excel in their fields. However, this personality has some unhealthy and unsociable downsides. Perfectionism becomes a liability when an insignificant setback feels like a major personal failure and then those close to you are impacted unfavorably.
One of the damaging effects of perfectionism is that a perfectionist may hold themselves or others to standards that they know are unrealistic. If your perfectionism interferes with your ability to form or maintain relationships, there are steps you can take to overcome perfectionism.
There is perfectionism and there is aspiring to greatness
If you go to the museum today, you cannot but help notice that there is no work of art that is perfect. Every famous painting has plenty of blemishes that only a trained eye can spot.
Take for example the Mona Lisa; a great work of art, but I learnt that if you look at it with X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, you’ll find that the painting is made up of over 40 layers of paint. Had Da Vinci gone much further beyond the 40th coat (i.e. if he had strived more for PERFECTION!), he could have lost the subtleness of human expression his paintings are known for.
Perfectionists tend to hyper-focus on even the tiniest flaws. If you focus on the things you’re unable to do perfectly, you may end up doing nothing at all. You’ll procrastinate so much that the final product will be sub-par.
Do you see how perfectionism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Acknowledge that perfection is unattainable. Rather, aspire for greatness.
The 4 tips below will help you overcome your obsession with being perfect:
1. Break it down.
Rather than envisioning your project as a perfect whole, try viewing it as a series of well-designed, interlocking pieces.
- If you put your focus into completing each step, you’ll find that the entire process goes smoother. Stop worrying about the outcome. Instead, focus on one task after another.
- You climb a flight of stairs by putting one foot in front of the other… do this with every task you have to accomplish. Avoid expecting an immediate victory. By keeping your mind focused on the task at hand, you can create forward momentum. You’ll have less time to scrutinize the overall project because you’ll be immersed in the present moment.
- If you find yourself stressing over individual steps, break your task further down into smaller chunks. Complete the next action without rushing. If you take it step-by-step, you’ll chip away at a large project without agonizing over whether it’s perfect.
2. Give others a chance.
From now on, be conscious of your behaviour. If you find yourself imposing your perfectionism on others, stop and ask why. It’s helpful to realize that others aren’t required to live by your standards.
- The more slack you give others, the easier you can be on yourself. Everyone has unique skills and talents. Keep in mind that your friends, family and loved ones can do many things better than you. However, it’s also likely that you excel in areas your peers struggle with… this is what makes working as team so much fun and effective way of getting things done
- When you ask your friends to perform at your level in a skill where they lack confidence, they may feel controlled. Remember that our imperfections are what make us human.
3. Think in gradations.
One powerful technique that you can use to claim the life you deserve is to learn to think in gradients.
- Grey is not black, and one point below 100% is not zero. At the end of the day, only you know how much work you put into a project. Be your own authority, and congratulate yourself on your effort.
- All-or-nothing thinking is unproductive because it only allows for two possibilities; just because you didn’t complete a task does not necessarily mean you failed… may be you need more time? Learnt a lesson or two along the way? Reality isn’t binary. Computers rely on binary reasoning, but that’s because computers lack the ability to feel. You learn and grow the most as a result of your missteps. Reality isn’t an all-or nothing proposition.
4. Embrace your sense of humor.
Nothing defuses perfectionism like a healthy sense of humor.
- Cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself and start to see beyond a single viewpoint.
- If you can find the humor in your failure, you can analyze it objectively and learn from it.
Life is not perfect…nobody is perfect and neither are you!
Permit yourself to let go of your perfectionist ways. Take action today by using these 4 top tips for overcoming perfectionism and create measurable changes in your life. You’ll be happy you did!